RENTON – Veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks during free agency to replace David Hawthorne, the team’s leading tackler the past three seasons who inked a long-term deal with New Orleans.
But for now, Ruud’s main objective, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said, is getting healthy.
Carroll told reporters during a pre-draft press conference Monday that Ruud is recovering from groin, knee and shoulder injuries suffered last season, but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp.
Ruud played in only nine games in his only season with Tennessee last year, landing on the season-ending injured reserve with a groin injury.
“He is working out, he’s doing a lot of stuff,” Carroll said. “But we’re going to be very careful with him in bringing him back. He’s never been hurt before. This is the first year he’s ever had anything and he has three things that are bothering him, so he’s getting them all fixed.”
Before an injury-plagued 2011 season, Ruud served as Tampa Bay’s starting middle linebacker, finishing with at least 114 tackles from 2007 to 2010, so he’s been productive when healthy.
Ruud, 28, also played for Seattle defensive coordinator Guy Bradley when he served as Tampa Bay’s linebackers coach, so he’s familiar with the Seahawks’ defensive scheme.
However, the fact that Seattle hopes to replace the team’s leading tackler with a player still nursing injuries could serve as a sign the Seahawks will be looking hard at linebackers early in this week’s draft, which begins Thursday.
“When he gets full speed, he can play,” Carroll said. “He’s started six years in the NFL at ‘Mike’ (middle linebacker). That’s a tremendous boost for us right now knowing that we have a guy that understands the scheme. He’s bright, he can lead and he can call it.”
The fact that second-year pro K.J. Wright can also play inside linebacker gives Seattle some options heading into the draft. Although Wright played 15 games at outside linebacker in his rookie season, he served as Hawthorne’s backup at inside linebacker, practicing there during the week while Hawthorne rested a sprained knee.
Wright even started Seattle’s regular-season opener at San Francisco last season at middle linebacker in place of Hawthorne.
“It really does add to our flexibility in the draft,” Carroll said. “It helps us a little bit knowing that we have that choice. I think we can really max him out inside or outside, depending on what happens in the next week.”
Carroll and general manager John Schneider offered few clues as to which player they might pick when the team selects at No. 12 overall Thursday. Carroll once again stated the need for a pass rusher to complement defensive end Chris Clemons, saying this year’s draft has plenty of talented pass rushers who can get to the quarterback.
“We need to find a pass rush combination with our guys that gets us more push and is a bigger factor,” Carroll said. “We really like what’s coming on in the second level of our defense with coverage guys and now we’ve got to find a way to improve it.
“We think Clem (Clemons) is a premiere pass rusher. He’s shown 20 sacks in the last two years. He’s a factor. We need to add to that.”
Schneider was asked whether or not he has a sense of whether teams are willing to move up into the top 10 for a specific player.
“I would think Wednesday evening into Thursday, we’ll start getting a better feel,” Schneider said. “I know that there are a couple teams that would like to get back (move down in draft order). It’s not an easy thing. … It’s on the clock, so you’re basically kind of waiting to see who’s going to come, and what players are sitting there.”
Joked Schneider, “We’re talking to a number of clubs, but it’s early in the evening.”
Carroll said Paul McQuistan is projected to be Seattle’s starting left guard, with John Moffitt remaining at right guard after he returns from season-ending knee surgery. Deuce Lutui was brought in to compete with Moffitt. ... You can probably scratch Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden off Seattle’s list. “He’s older than the other guys by a lot,” Carroll said. “He’s going to be 29, so it is an issue that you have to deal with.”
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